Indie Flicks Part III: Cruel but Necessary

Released in Canada by Critical Mass and Anchor Bay/Starz, Cruel but Necessary (2005) is Saul Rubinek's fourth film as director.

One of Canada's best-known and busiest actors in film and TV, Rubinek has directed three other films, including Jerry and Tom (1998), which was expanded by Rick Cleveland (TV's Six Feet Under, Mad Men) from his one-act play.

In both Cruel and Jerry, one sees Rubinek’s commitment to working from a strong script and concept, and getting natural, unadorned performances from his actors – quite paramount for Cruel, which began as a series of monologues penned by actress Wendel Meldrum.

As Rubinek explains in our lengthy conversation, producer (and Rubinek’s wife) Elinor Reid developed Cruel, and Rubinek acted as a story editor for the audience, making sure the script’s themes of obsession and redemption also led to a satisfying conclusion, since the basic story involves an eccentric divorcee who films herself and secretly friends, family, and a poor boyfriend as part of some epic documentation of a single mom trying to find identity and purpose.

The film premiered at the Seattle International Film Festival in June of 2005 and took some time to reach DVD in the U.S. (late 2008) and Canada (early 2009), and is worth hunting down because it’s a very clever and frequently funny drama.

Reality TV has softened our resistance to naked, real-time human behaviour, and Cruel benefits from our acceptance of a narrative derived from confessional and hidden camera footage, but Cruel is neither an arty, indulgent, meandering, or unbalanced film; one does have to warm up to a neurotic leading character and her dysfunctional family, but it’s to Meldrum’s credit that flaky Betty Munson remains a believable and sympathetic character.



Copyright © mondomark